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August 17, 2018 2:27 pm

Flourishing Trade Between Israel and Arab States ‘a Glimpse’ of Hopeful Future, Says Think Tank Led by Former UK PM Tony Blair

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

Far from being targeted for “boycotts, divestment and sanctions,” Israel’s trade with its Middle Eastern neighbors is in fact blossoming, a new report from a leading British think tank said on Friday.

Total Israeli exports of goods and services to MENA markets in 2016 are estimated at about $7 billion, and total Israeli imports from Middle Eastern markets in 2016 are estimated at a roughly similar magnitude,” the report — entitled “Assessing Israel’s Trade with its Arab Neighbors” and published by the London-based Institute for Global Change, founded by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair — noted.

The report spotlighted what it called “the growing dependence of the Palestinian economy on Israel in recent years.”

“In 2016, Israel was the source of some 60 per cent of Palestinian recorded imports of goods and the destination of 85 per cent of Palestinian recorded exports of goods,” the report said. “Moreover, the number of Palestinian laborers employed in Israel increased significantly from 40,000 in 2002 to 130,000 in 2016.”

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Arguing that there was a strong economic interest in a final peace settlement, the report argued that to “support a future independent and economically viable state, the Palestinian economy must be allowed to grow and develop beyond Israel.” It also pointed to potential economic benefits for Israel, arguing that “without a final status agreement with the Palestinians, Israel’s overall security-related costs will remain at a relatively high level of close to 15 per cent of GDP.”

In a foreword to the report, Blair stated that the institute’s research “shows that while Israel’s trade with Middle Eastern markets is already quite considerable, there is still significant, untapped potential for Israeli-Arab trade and economic cooperation.”

“The research offers a glimpse of what cooperation could mean for this region — in technology, culture and trade, as well as further prospects for economic development,” wrote Blair, who spent almost a decade as the international community’s envoy to the Middle East before he resigned the post in 2015.

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